Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Will both starting safeties return?

Eagles Stay or Go 2020: Will both starting safeties return?

Reuben Frank, Dave Zangaro and Andrew Kulp bring back Stay or Go with the 2020 version, trying to figure out the future of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Today, we’ll look at safeties:

Malcolm Jenkins 

Roob: I find it difficult to believe the Eagles won’t be able to come to a sensible contract extension with Jenkins, who's still one of the Eagles’ best players and an unquestioned leader in that locker room. The franchise that let Reggie go and let Dawk go isn’t going to let Malcolm go.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Malcolm Jenkins has been one of the most versatile and dependable players in the NFL over the past several seasons. He wants to get a pay raise and he deserves it. He doesn’t deserve to be the highest-paid safety in the NFL but he deserves to be top 7-10. And for how much he means to the Eagles, they have to figure out a way to keep him. 

Verdict: Stays

Kulp: Unlike Roob's choice of Alshon Jeffery, I believe this to be the ultimate stay or go decision for the Eagles this offseason. The club wants to get younger, and giving Jenkins the extension that he is demanding -- and he made it very clear it is a demand this time -- doesn't really mesh with that. On the other hand, the guy pretty much never comes off the field, even on special teams, which makes him almost indispensable. Further complicating the decision, Jenkins looked ordinary early in 2019, but played more like a three-time Pro Bowler down the stretch, so while it wasn't his most dominant season, it's hard to say he experienced a dramatic decline. I won't be surprised if the Eagles trade him, but I think they should keep him as long as he's realistic about the length of a new deal. 

Verdict: Stays

Rodney McLeod 

Roob: McLeod is a pretty solid, under-rated guy, and unless he’s looking to break the bank as a free agent I think he’ll be back. McLeod is the kind of guy who has more value here than as a free agent because he provides Eagles continuity in a secondary that’s going to be changing a lot and he has a comfort level in this defense. 

Verdict: Stays

Dave: A former undrafted player, McLeod has carved out a really nice career, first with the Rams and now in Philadelphia. He has been an important player for the last four years and he obviously likes it here; he took a big pay cut to return in 2019 after an ACL tear the previous season. But he’s 29 and the Eagles should prioritize paying Jenkins and perhaps a free agent corner. This is also McLeod’s last chance for a pay day. 

Verdict: Goes 

Kulp: Jenkins wasn't the only iron man in the secondary this season. McLeod was on the field for all but two snaps, and he played pretty strong for a guy the Eagles forced to take a pay cut in the offseason for some reason. He's a free agent and turns 30, which again would seem to fly in the face of an impending youth movement. But also like Jenkins, it's not easy to replace somebody who plays that many snaps at such a high level. If he makes it to the market, McLeod will get scooped up in a hurry. The Eagles should do what they can to try to prevent that. 

Verdict: Stays

Marcus Epps 

Roob: Epps didn’t join the Eagles until November but he gradually  became a pretty significant guy, averaging close to 20 defensive snaps in the last five games. Jim Schwartz likes him, he’s under contract, he's cheap and there are literally no other promising young safeties on the roster. All all that gives him a fair shot at the 53.

Verdict: Stays

Dave: Epps was a sixth round pick of the Vikings but got to Philly in November and by the end of the season was playing a significant role on defense. He’s young and cheap and wasn’t bad. No reason to toss him aside just yet. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: Here's the other problem with letting either Jenkins or McLeod go: Epps is currently the top reserve safety on the roster. That means if the Eagles' free agency or draft plans fall through, a sixth-round pick who was released by the Vikings in the middle of his rookie year is potentially your starter. Nothing against Epps, but they can't afford to have that happen. And since the club needs to infuse the position with some quality young prospects, he may not even hold on to his current role.

Verdict: Goes

Rudy Ford 

Roob: Ford played a ton on special teams the first two months of the season – a team-high 213 snaps through 10 games -- before winding up on IR. He'll be in training camp if he's healthy, but assuming the Eagles bring in a bunch of young db’s, finding his way back to the 53 will be a challenge.

Verdict: Goes

Dave: Ford ended the season on IR but he was a special teamer before that. That’s probably his most important role, on special teams. But that can be important too. We’ll have to see if the Eagles draft a safety or bring another one in, but for now, I’m cool with keeping Ford as a cheap special teams player. 

Verdict: Stays 

Kulp: For some reason, the Eagles seem really high on Ford as a special teams ace. Yet, this is a guy who accounted for 3.7% of the team's total penalties for the entire season while playing less than 1% of the total plays. He'll be back, but hopefully returns a more disciplined player. 

Verdict: Stays

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NFL free agency: Weighing pros and cons of a Darius Slay trade for Eagles

NFL free agency: Weighing pros and cons of a Darius Slay trade for Eagles

The Eagles desperately need some help at cornerback and one of the top ones in the game is reportedly available. 

Of course the Eagles should be interested. 

Schefter doesn’t list any teams in that report but it would make plenty of sense if the Eagles were one of them. In fact, during the 2019 season, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported the Eagles were interested in possibly trading for Slay before the trade deadline. That obviously didn’t happen. 

And now the three-time Pro Bowler is about to enter the final year of his contract with the Lions. 

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of a possible deal for the Eagles: 


• Slay is good and still in his prime. This is pretty obvious. The 6-0, 190-pound cornerback was an All-Pro in 2017 and has been a Pro Bowler in each of his last three seasons. And he’s been good for a long time. Since 2014, Slay has 19 interceptions, which ranks him fourth in the entire league behind Marcus Peters, Stephon Gilmore and Reggie Nelson.  

And Slay during his time in Detroit has traveled with their opponent’s best receiver a ton. That’s something Jim Schwartz hasn’t done in his time with the Eagles but would probably want to if he had a player of Slay’s caliber. And in a division with Amari Cooper, Darius Slayton and Terry McLaurin for the next few years, that would be nice to have. 

• The Eagles desperately need help at cornerback. Whether it comes through the draft, free agency or a trade, the Eagles need to revamp a position that has been a problem for years. They have struggled to sign cornerbacks as much as they’ve struggled to draft them. Slay would immediately be the best cornerback to suit up for the Eagles in a decade. Their last Pro Bowl caliber cornerback was Asante Samuel, who hasn’t played here since 2011. 

• The trade might not cost as much as you’d think. ESPN’s Mike Clay projected a Slay trade for the Eagles a few days ago. In that trade, he had the Eagles sending a third-round pick and Sidney Jones to Detroit. That sounds like a small haul for a perennial Pro Bowl player but Slay is entering the final year of his contract and if the Lions are going to move on, they probably want to get something for him. Lions new DC Cory Undlin seemed to like Jones when he was here and a change of scenery could help him live up to his potential. 

Plus, if the Eagles trade for Slay and can’t work out a long-term deal, they’d probably get a compensatory pick back for him. 


• Slay is 29. The Eagles want to get younger and Slay is nearing 30. While he has been durable, playing at least 13 games in all seven of his NFL seasons, it’s fair to wonder how long he’ll be in his prime. So many of the Eagles’ best players are near or over 30 and adding Slay would mean adding another aging player to the core. 

• He wants a contract. Slay is a 29-year-old Pro Bowler entering the final year of his deal. He has a base salary of $10 million in 2019 but wants to get paid and he’s earned that. The highest-paid six cornerbacks in the NFL make over an average of $14 million per season, so to sign Slay to a long-term deal, it’ll take at least that. The highest-paid CB in the NFL is Xavien Howard at just over $15 million per season. Slay is three years older but that’s likely where his agent will want to start. 

• There might be more attractive options. Sure, it’s hard to imagine a better option than a three-time Pro Bowler who still appears to be in his prime, but there might be cheaper and younger options. There’s a deep free agent class this offseason with guys like Logan Ryan and Kendall Fuller and then there are plenty of solid options in the draft. One of those options might be more appealing to the Eagles but those possibilities might also keep the price (trade and contract) at a reasonable level for Slay. 

So …. 

The Eagles should absolutely be interested in Slay, especially if we’re talking about a trade like the one Clay put forward. For that trade price, it might even be worth getting Slay for one season and seeing what happens. I don’t know how Slay would feel about playing out the final season of his contract but if he’d show up, that might be the best move because the Eagles will have enough cap space to pay him $10 million in 2020. The Eagles could trade for Slay, draft a corner or two and then see where things stand heading into the 2021 season. Not saying this is a slam dunk, but we all know Howie Roseman isn’t shy to pick up the phone. And this time it’s warranted. 

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NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 4.0: Plenty of Eagles options at WR

NFL mock draft 2020 roundup 4.0: Plenty of Eagles options at WR

I didn’t plan on this but it’s not that surprising either. 

In this latest 2020 mock draft roundup, you’ll notice there’s a common theme for every Eagles’ pick at No. 21. They’re all receivers. All five. 

With the team’s situation at receiver, they clearly need to upgrade and it just so happens that this is a pretty good class for receivers. There are six or seven likely to go in the first round, so there’s a legitimate shot the Eagles will take one of them at No. 21. 

In the modern era, the Eagles have taken a receiver five times in the first round and four of them were taken around where they’ll pick this spring. 

2015: Nelson Agholor (20)
2009: Jeremy Maclin (19)
2001: Freddie Mitchell (25) 
1984: Kenny Jackson (4) 
1982: Mike Quick (20) 

Here are some options for the Eagles in a couple months: 

The Draft Network, Benjamin Solak

Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado 

What they said: It’s no secret that I’m a big Laviska Shenault fan, but the bigger secret in Philadelphia is that it may have exactly zero 2021 starting receivers from its current 2020 roster. With rookie JJ Arcega-Whiteside struggling to find the field, Alshon Jeffery looking like an eventual cap casualty once his figure goes down and DeSean Jackson yet to prove he’s back healthy, the receiving corps needs an overhaul something fierce.

Enter Shenault, who can line up anywhere and win with a simple route tree early given his dominant athletic ability and quality hands away from his frame. He makes a lot of sense as well if Jeffery and Jackson are healthy. Shenault can win as an underneath player whose best trait is his yards-after-catch ability. That’s where Shenault is truly dominant.

My take on Shenault: I agree with Ben that Shenault (6-2, 220) would make a ton of sense for the Eagles. His college production wasn’t off the charts but I think that will matter less to the Eagles this time around. And if Shenault goes to the combine and shows off his speed and athleticism, I will have seen enough. He’s a versatile player who could become a dynamic playmaker in the NFL, so he certainly checks off all the boxes. 

Solak has Shenault as the fourth receiver off the board after CeeDee Lamb (13th), Henry Ruggs III (15th), Jerry Jeudy (19th). Tee Higgins is still available here but I kind of agree that Shenault would be a more exciting pick. 

CBS Sports, Chris Trapasso

Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson

Here’s what they said: Higgins is there for Philadelphia. Marvelous situation for Carson Wentz. Higgins has otherworldly ball skills and deceptive long speed.

My take on Higgins: About a month into mock draft season, it seems like Higgins has been the most common pick for the Eagles. At 6-4, 215, Higgins is a different player than Sheanault and is coming off back-to-back 59-catch seasons. Let’s see what Higgins does in the 40 at the combine — I think that number will matter. 

In this mock draft, Higgins is the fifth receiver selected after Lamb (8th), Ruggs III (11th), Jeudy (13th) and Shenault Jr. (18th). TCU’s Jalen Reagor goes at 24. 

CBS Sports, R.J. White

Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama 

Here’s what they said: Ruggs certainly could go much higher than this, but if he's available, he'll bring the dynamic presence the Eagles sorely lacked last year when DeSean Jackson, who is 33, missed most of last season with an injury.

My take on Ruggs: I fully expect Ruggs III (6-0, 190) to be long gone by the time the Eagles pick at 21 but there are surprises every year, so I won’t sit here and say there’s no chance. I do think that with the talent at receiver in this class, there will likely be more than two in the top 20. To put it simply with Ruggs: the Eagles need speed and no one has more speed than him. 

White has just two receivers — Lamb (12th) and Jeudy (13th) — going before Ruggs. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune, Eddie Brown

CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma

Here’s what they said: The Eagles wide receiver corps is in shambles. The inconsistent Nelson Agholor faces free agency while DeSean Jackson isn’t getting any younger (or healthier). Lamb has elite hands and ball skills (he’s special with the ball in the air). He can also contribute as a blocker. 

My take on Lamb: I think this is the first time I have seen Lamb (6-2, 189) mocked to the Eagles and that’s mostly because he’s usually off the board long before this. Same situation with Ruggs — I guess there’s an outside chance Lamb could be available, but I doubt it. 

For reference, the other four mock drafts we’re looking at today had Lamb off the board on average at 11.5. So his falling to 21 seems unlikely … at least for now. 

Yahoo Sports, Eric Edholm

Brandon Aiyuk, WR, Arizona State 

Here’s what they said: The need for (receiver) speed is real. I thought about a corner here, with the Eagles smelling a possible run at that position. But I believe they could be smitten with the vertical ability of Aiyuk, who also earned the apt nickname of “Ai-YAC.” 

My take on Aiyuk: It’s an interesting name and among the guys mocked to the Eagles, Aiyuk (6-1, 206) is probably the name you’re least familiar with. He has speed and is a big YAC guy, so he would certainly seem to fit a need. He has traits to possibly become a dynamic play-maker but 21 might be too early. 

Opinions are clearly split on him. Trapasso and White had him at 26 and 24, respectively, while Solak and Brown had Aiyuk in the second round at No. 54 and 56. 

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